In March 2018, Donald Trump published an all-caps tweet in which he claimed the House Intelligence Committee had completely exonerated him in the Russia scandal. That wasn’t what happened. In reality, the president’s Republican allies on the committee published a one-party report echoing the White House’s talking points, following a ridiculous investigation that no one could take seriously.
Three months later, the Justice Department inspector general’s office shredded practically every claim Trump had made against federal law enforcement, making the president look quite foolish in the process. Trump nevertheless told reporters, “I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me.”
His claim could charitably be described as gibberish. The president pointed to non-existent answers to questions the Justice Department’s IG didn’t even ask.
This morning, Trump published a trio of tweets, apparently in response to something he saw on Fox News, once again claiming exoneration.
“Highly respected Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of Senate Intelligence, said today that, after an almost two year investigation, he saw no evidence of Russia collusion. ‘We don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.’ Thank you!
“Not only did Senator Burr’s Committee find No Collusion by the Trump Campaign and Russia, it’s important because they interviewed 200 witnesses and 300,000 pages of documents, & the Committee has direct access to intelligence information that’s Classified. @GreggJarrett
“The mainstream media has refused to cover the fact that the head of the VERY important Senate Intelligence Committee, after two years of intensive study and access to Intelligence that only they could get, just stated that they have found NO COLLUSION between ‘Trump’ & Russia….”
Let’s take a minute to unpack this.
First, there’s what Burr actually said. As Politico reported, “ ‘Based on the evidence to date,’ Burr said, the committee could not definitively say there was collusion between Trump and the Russians. ‘If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,’ Burr told CBS.”
The president’s tweets suggested the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation is over. It’s actually ongoing.
Second, Trump said the Senate Intelligence Committee itself concluded there was “no collusion.” There is, however, an important difference between Richard Burr’s preliminary assessment and the eventual findings of the full committee.
Finally, time will tell what the Senate Intelligence Committee ends up producing, but it’s worth remembering that the North Carolina Republican hasn’t exactly been a neutral observer throughout the process. In December 2016, Burr said he was inclined to largely ignore the Russia scandal.
Three months later, Burr reached out to reporters, downplaying the importance of the Russia scandal, at the White House’s behest.
Four months later, Burr said that if Trump privately demanded personal loyalty from then-FBI Director James Comey, he wouldn’t necessarily see that as “wrong.”
Is it any wonder that the president is turning to Burr’s assessments for support?